Viet Nam News -
Surpassing 150 competitors, Ninh Đức Hoàng Long, a Vietnamese student, won the top prize at the ninth Simandy Jozsef International Singing Competition in Hungary early this month. In the category for ages 18-25, he delivered an impressive performance of Hazam Hazam (My Country). Long was born in 1991 in the northern province of Ninh Bình. He studied at the Việt Nam National Academy of Music before becoming a student at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Hungary. He spoke with Culture Vulture about his passion for opera.
Would you say something about yourself and why you became an opera student in Hungary?
I was named after the Hoàng Long River, which runs across my homeland, Ninh Bình. I was borned into a family of art lovers. My father is a writer and playwright. My mother loves singing. So I had a chance to meet many singers and artists since when I was a little boy. Once I had a chance to enjoy a performance by Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. I immediately decided to study opera like my idol.
At the end of high school, I decided to study music instead of natural science, what I had pursued before. My parents didn’t agree with me. I was so stubborn that I stayed at a pagoda until they let me walk on my way. Now, all of us realise that studying music was the right decision.
After two years studying at the Việt Nam National Academy of Music, I received a scholarship for further study in Hungary.
Why do you select Hazam Hazam to perform at the competition?
It’s an extract from a opera titled Bank Ban. This is a very familiar patriotic song in Hungary. All Hungarians know it. Despite its popularity, not many can sing it well, because it requires operatic techniques. It’s a difficult song that only late Hungarian opera singer Jozsef Simandy performed it perfectly, people have said.
In 2014, I performed the song during a university event, wearing a shirt emblazoned with Việt Nam’s flag. One day after, the video recording of my performance was uploaded on YouTube and attracted heaps of viewers.
Many Hungarian journalists and YouTube users told me that many singers, including foreigners, had performed the song, but only two had the power to move people - one is Simandy, the other is myself. That’s why I decided to perform the song at the opera contest named after him.
How hard did you practise?
I faced a big challenge when I selected Hazam Hazam, because it’s attached to the name of Simandy, a legend of Hungarian music. I wondered if I could express myself effectively or not. Luckily, my efforts touched the hearts of listeners and the jury board.
Hungarian is a difficult language, as it has many vowels and consonants. I spent many hours learning to pronounce a single sentence.
Every week I study opera, singing with orchestras, piano and other auxiliary subjects like history of music, aesthetics and musical knowledge. I spend two hours everyday in voice training.
Opera is not a popular art form in Việt Nam. Do you worry that your career can’t develop here like in Hungary?
Yes, the number of opera lovers in Việt Nam is humble in comparison with Hungary. But people who love opera are educated and very passionate for music. They would be a faithful audience. Many young people are studying classical music and I believe some of them are better than me. We, the younger generation, can promote opera in Việt Nam. — VNS